Mark Franz’s “When We Were Free”

Mark Franz’s “When We Were Free”

Jan 18, 2019 | The Human Family | 0 comments


Mark Franz’s “When We Were Free” is currently on display at the 2019 North Dakota Human Rights Arts Festival.

“When We Were Free” is a work of oscilloscope music that references the precarious role of computing in contemporary media transmission. It also continues the tradition of using visual music as a vehicle for sociopolitical commentary or opposition (e.g. Hans Richter). The process used to create the film alludes to technology and synesthetic cinema, facilitating a direct relationship between sound and image; the images recorded from the screen of the oscilloscope are created by the stereo audio heard in the film.
The title is a reference to Milton Mayers 1955 account of the development of fascism in Germany in “They thought they were free.” It is meant to be an open question as much as a statement, not unlike the “what if” questions created by abstraction in other types of visual and poetic work.

“When We Were Free” is part of the experimental film section of the festival.

Visit the festival at one of its three stops in North Dakota to experience Franz’s “When We Were Free”.

Mark Franz is a designer, artist, and educator whose exhibitions and primary research projects involve the creation of interactive installations that reflect on issues of violence, dislocation, and other social constructions important in contemporary cultures.

Recently this work has been exhibited as part of the PhxArtcade in conjunction with The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Art of Video Games presented by the Phoenix Art Museum in Phoenix, AZ and at the Leuphana Centre for Digital Cultures in Luneburg, Germany. Franz’s secondary research involves creating custom hardware and software for audiovisual performance and installation, and references the art historical current of visual music commonly discussed as part of animation history.

“My art is informed by two separate disciplines: Literature and Design,” Franz said. “In regard to my research in Literature, it has been common for me to focus on 20th century American Literature, and its preoccupations with subculture, moral climate change, and political disenchantment. These ideas are prominent in my research and artwork, and it has become my pleasure to find unique ways to communicate these ideas visually. Poetry, as an excellent model for the non‐linear narrative, as well as its ability to concentrate imagery, is a primary source for inspiration in this regard. These ideas provide a strong foundation for pursuing further development in the design world.”

“When We Were Free” has been exhibited at Pixelerations at the Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University in Providence, RI, the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago, IL and the Currents International New Media Festival in Santa Fe, NM. As the Chair of the Graphic Design area, in the School of Art + Design at Ohio University, Franz teaches courses in Graphic Design, New Media, Visual Systems, and Interaction Design.

The Second Annual North Dakota Human Rights Arts Festival opens Tuesday, January 8 at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, North Dakota. The festival includes the work of thirty-five 2D, 3D, filmmakers and live performance artists from around the world.

Each artist explores human rights, civil rights or social justice issues through their respective mediums. In addition to paintings, mixed media works and photographs, a series of experimental videos will also be a part of the festival. Live performance works will take place during an artist reception scheduled throughout the festival.

For the first time, the festival will travel throughout North Dakota. The exhibition opens on January 8, 2019, at Plains Art Museum in Fargo. On February 1, the exhibition will open in Bismarck at the Bismarck Downtown Artist Cooperative. The exhibition will conclude its travel schedule in Grand Forks in March, opening March 4 at the High Plains Fair Housing Center.

Artist Receptions for Fargo and Bismarck have been scheduled. In Fargo, the reception will take place on Wednesday, January 23 from 6-8 p.m. at the Plains Art Museum. In Bismarck, the reception will take place on Friday, February 1 from 6-8 p.m. at the Bismarck Downtown Artist Cooperative. The Artist Reception for Grand Forks at the High Plains Fair Housing Center is presently being scheduled to take place in March. Additional information about all receptions will be announced in the near future.

All exhibitions and receptions are free and open to the public.

The North Dakota Human Rights Arts Festival is supported through the generosity of the Consensus Council. The Fargo portion of the exhibition is made possible by through a Community Arts Partnership Project grant through The Arts Partnership, the generosity of the City of Fargo’s Human Relations Commission, the City of Fargo’s Native American Commission and through a partnership the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition. Established in 2017, the mission of the North Dakota Human Rights Arts Festival is to educate, engage and facilitate discussion around local and word-wide human rights topics through the work of artists.

For more information about the festival, visit




1 (701) 205-0248



PO Box 9468
Fargo, ND 58106-9468

The Human Family

The Human Family promotes human rights and social justice through film and art.


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